Chain of command child abuse reporting must end

Chain of command child abuse reporting must end

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Dr. Franne Sippel

Dr. Franne Sippel

In regard to the articles, "Rapid City Diocese: 21 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, "as well as the recent Frontline/Wall Street Journal story, "A Pedophile Doctor Drew Suspicions for 21 Years: No One Stopped Him,’ we must stop and examine what these two tragedies have in common.

In both cases, the sexual abuse went on for years and both tragedies occurred in South Dakota, which is one of only a minority of states where chain of command reporting of child abuse is allowed. This form of reporting is the common denominator in every major sexual abuse scandal in recent history including: The Penn State Scandal, USA Gymnastics; USA Taekwondo, the Catholic Church, as well as the Pine Ridge, SD scandal.

Chain of Command reporting means that a mandatory reporter (MR) of child abuse must report the suspected abuse to his/her supervisor or another designated person, trusting that the “higher up” does the right thing, and reports the abuse directly to CPS or law enforcement. However, often the reputation of the institution/individual supersedes the safety of children, and the “higher up” fails to report and/or the MR who does report experiences retaliation such as an adverse employment action.

In the Pine Ridge tragedy, a fellow doctor and MR who reported the pedophile doctor was retaliated against by being transferred to a job in North Dakota, which meant a large pay cut. Another professional involved, Mr. Pourier, said he did not report outside of the chain of command for fear of losing his job. In many cases, MRs who are legally mandated to report child abuse either face retaliation or are scared into silence.

Chain of command reporting is outdated and inefficient. If we are serious about ending the shameful practice of serial sexual abuse in our state, chain of command reporting must be eliminated in all settings/institutions. It is time to prioritize the safety of our children above all else.

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